A Humble Strategy For Keeping Your Mind Quiet

Am I a mental health professional? No. Did I study psychology or a related field in college? Also, no. However, there are two reasons why I am taking the time to discuss mental health despite my lack of qualifications. The first: Because of how closely our agency works with attorneys, it’s alarming when various studies show the increase in mental health issues within the profession. 

“About 38% said they dealt with depression, an increase of 35% from last year. Additionally, the number of lawyers who struggled with another mental health issue more than doubled, up to about 31% this year from nearly 15% last year.” Source

That study also pointed out that of the 3,000 lawyers who were surveyed, 71% said they were dealing with anxiety. The second reason I can write about this is that I served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine infantry officer. I am proud of what I did, but I struggled when I got out of the military, to put it mildly. Because I have dealt with many of the things these surveys say attorneys struggle with, I wanted to offer what I have done to make complicated things manageable. 

There’s No Trick; There’s No Hack

I set out to come up with two strategies. I needed one to guide my life and actions on a macro level; the other was meant to help me process challenges daily. As for the former, I developed five values to guide me. They have been rewritten several times over the last eight years, but they have also given me direction. My favorite therapist (I have had several) told me I needed a compass heading. Always head west, she said. Sometimes, I would have to change course to go around an obstacle, but once it was cleared, I’d return to heading west, metaphorically. 

I have yet to be successful with vague values. Saying you are compassionate or trustworthy is fundamental to being a good person, but they are not specific enough to help when deciding on a course of action. Here are the five values I have come up with, and I make every decision based on them.

  1. Be reliable 
  2. Be a good father 
  3. Be a lifelong learner who listens 
  4. Pursue mental and physical health 
  5. Pursue and study a craft

The order is important. Although it is a simple example, if I had to choose between being with my family or exercising, #2 would have won. 

The Micro Level 

Whereas my values give me direction, I need things to focus on every day. For instance, if I sleep three hours a night and live off of Little Debbie’s snack cakes (which are delicious), I am not giving myself the foundation I need to pursue my values. And I didn’t come up with these next five. I heard a CrossFit coach talking about them several years ago and have used them ever since. Here are the most important things I do every day in order of importance:

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time (I am an 8:30 pm to 4:30 am person)
  2. Eat a clean diet 
  3. Exercise (I like CrossFit and hockey)
  4. Work with a mental health professional 
  5. Seek out human connection 

There they are. I still need help and often fall significantly short of my expectations. When I do, I imagine that I am going around an obstacle. Ultimately, I will return to my compass heading and find a path out west. I hope you find yours, too.

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